UK Government criminalises the use of ticket tout bots

By Francis Keepfer

The UK Government has introduced new draft legislation which criminalises the use of ‘bots’ to bulk buy event tickets.

Bots are automated programs used by ticket touts to circumvent security measures and maximum ticket purchase limits on legitimate ticketing websites.

The Breaching Limits on Ticket Sales Regulations 2017, introduced as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017, now make it a criminal offence to use ‘anything that enables or facilitates completion’ of any part of an online ticket sales process ‘with intent to obtain tickets in excess of a limit imposed’ by the seller.

The offence is committed whether the offer of tickets is made or anything is done to obtain the tickets, in or outside of the United Kingdom, and a person guilty of an offence under the Regulations is liable, in England and Wales, to an unlimited fine, and in Scotland, to a fine not exceeding £50,000.

The new legislation comes against a backdrop of recent efforts by the UK Government to combat large scale ticket touting. This includes the introduction of the Digital Economy Act 2017, which places additional requirements on ticket sellers and provides revised guidance for consumers, and two high-profile investigations carried out by National Trading Standards (NTS) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the former investigation leading to a series of raids and arrests in December last year. In November last year, the CMA raided the offices of secondary ticket websites StubHub and Viagogo as part of a year-long probe into ‘suspected breaches of consumer protection law’.

Internationally, a number of countries and private-sector companies are also cracking down on the use of ticket tout bots. The practice was banned in the United States in 2016, and Australia is currently considering legislation on the same. Google has also recently announced new restrictions on ticket sellers and ticket websites in order to combat fraud.

Matt Hancock, minister for the creative industries, said of the new Regulation:

We’re determined to make sure 2018 is the year we help real fans get the chance to see their favourite music and sports stars at a fair price. We’ll be acting to stamp out the growing problem of touts misusing technology to scoop up vast numbers of tickets only to sell them on at rip-off prices. Our work, together with improvements by industry, will help make the market more transparent and mean a great year for Britain’s thriving live events scene.”

The draft legislation can be found here.